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China’s first World Cup races canceled amid coronavirus concern

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Alpine skiing joined a long list of sports juggling schedules in the midst of a coronavirus outbreak as the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced Wednesday that the first World Cup Alpine races set for China would be canceled.

The course in Yanqing, China, will be the Olympic course in the 2022 Winter Games. A men’s downhill and super-G had been scheduled for Feb. 15-16.

The situation in China, where the coronavirus death toll is now well over 100 and the number of confirmed cases is more than 6,000, has changed rapidly. Last weekend, FIS general secretary Sarah Lewis described the possibility of canceling the event as “low risk.”

Yanqing hosted its first competition, the Chinese National Winter Games, Jan. 16-20.

“Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCoV, we have been paying close attention to its impact on the 2019/2020 FIS Alpine Ski World Cup in Yanqing and have taken active precautionary measures under the guidelines of local health and disease control authorities,” Yanging organizers said. “At present, the outbreak has not ended and Beijing municipal government is taking proactive measures to contain the spread of the virus. We take the health of athletes, coaches, journalists, fans, and staff seriously. FIS, the Chinese Ski Association, and the Yanqing Organising Committee have therefore come to the decision to cancel the event.”

Women’s races are scheduled for Yanqing next season, and the FIS said it would work to schedule men’s races on the Olympic slope as well.

The FIS said it would announce at a later date a possible “rescheduling” of the Feb. 15-16 races, but with no free weekends on the World Cup schedule, those races would almost certainly be set for another venue on the same weekend rather than a later date in China.

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Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics add seven new events

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Seven new events were added to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic program:

Women’s monobobsled
Short track mixed team relay
Ski jumping mixed team event
Freestyle skiing big air (men and women)
Aerials mixed team event
Snowboard cross mixed team event

The additions bring the Winter Olympic total number of events to 109, an all-time high and nearly double the amount of events at the 1992 Winter Games.

The number of women’s hockey teams will increase from eight to 10 in 2022, but the overall number of athletes is expected to be fewer than the 2,933 in PyeongChang. The International Olympic Committee said athlete quotas will decrease in some sports, but no events have been contracted. Alpine skiing’s super combined events are still under review as to whether they will remain in the Olympic program.

The IOC said the Winter Olympics will have its highest-ever gender balance in 2022, rising from 41 percent female athletes to more than 45 percent.

The IOC had a “long discussion” about adding a women’s event in Nordic combined, the only sport without a women’s event in the Winter Games, IOC sports director Kit McConnell said.

“Nordic combined, and women’s in particular, still need to be developed further in terms of universality [the number of countries with Olympic-level athletes], in terms of the level of the athletes,” McConnell said.

The IOC also weighed whether to add a four-woman bobsled event rather than women’s monobobsled. The Games have two-man and two-woman events and a four-man event.

McConnell said the International Bobsled and Skeleton Federation was “very supportive” of monobob, in part because it is already on the Youth Olympic program.

“Woman’s four-man bob costs three or four times of monobob,” McConnell said. “We felt there would be more universality in the women’s monobob. We really didn’t see more than a handful of countries really developing women’s four-man programs because of the costs involved.”

Beijing will mark the third straight Winter Olympics to add mixed-gender events. In 2014, mixed relays in biathlon and luge debuted, as well as the figure skating team event. In PyeongChang, a mixed Alpine skiing team event and mixed doubles curling debuted.

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Who’s likely to field strong figure skating team in Beijing?

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GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) — Four years can be an eternity in figure skating. Injuries, ennui, growth spurts, coaching changes, even rules alterations play a role in getting from one Olympics to another.

NBCOlympics.com: The best moments from figure skating at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics

So who is well positioned to handle all of that, and which countries already are taking aim at the 2022 Beijing Games?

A young Russian squad finished second in the team event, but the only individual medals came in the women’s competition from teenagers Alina Zagitova and Yevgenia Medvedeva.

Still, Russia could have a loaded team for Beijing. The Russians always find strong pairs and ice dance couples, and their failures in Pyeongchang probably are an anomaly; Russia or the Soviet Union won an ice dance medal in every games since the discipline became part of the schedule in 1976, and in all but one Olympics in pairs since 1964.

Click here to read the full story and watch all the highlights from the figure skating competition